Being minimalist in time as well as space

I talked last year about the ‘blank slate’ approach to minimalism: instead of reducing what you have, start by imagining you have nothing, and then figure out the things you would want. Add from 0% rather than subtract from 100%.

I’m attempting to apply the same approach to how I use my time and energy, borrowing from the Descartes apple basket analogy …

Suppose [a person] had a basket full of apples and, being worried that some of the apples were rotten, wanted to take out the rotten ones to prevent the rot spreading. How would they proceed? Would they not begin by tipping the whole lot out of the basket? And would not the next step be to cast an eye over each apple in turn, and pick up and put back in the basket only those they saw to be sound, leaving the others?

Descartes was talking about beliefs rather than time, but the analogy holds good for me. Instead of looking at how I currently use my time, and choosing things to drop or change, to again take the blank slate approach. Start with a blank 24-hour day, and block in the non-discretionary things: work, sleep, hygiene, etc. Then look at the balance of time available, and choose how I want to use it.

Some people mis-apply this philosophy, in my view, and think that every minute must be used productively. That you can’t read trashy novels, or wander down Wikipedia rabbit holes, or walk aimlessly around the streets of London. For me, it doesn’t imply any of that: pleasurable activities are a perfectly good use of time.

Indeed, since I’ve been taking this approach, I’ve been doing less, rather than more. I now begin each day sitting in my Balans chair with a cup of coffee; no screens, no music, no chat. Sometimes for five minutes, sometimes for 45 minutes. Just silently opening the day.

What it does mean is asking myself: is this particular use of my time right now what I need or want to be doing? Is there some other use of that time which would bring me greater satisfaction or enjoyment or, yes, productive results?

There’s also overlap between a blank slate approach to space and time. What kind of space is appropriate for the ways in which I want to use my time? For example, I spend significantly more time sat at a desk than I do on a sofa, so my space should be allocated accordingly.

This approach to time also applies to mental and emotional energy every bit as much as activities. At this point in my life, I’m stuck in a flat-share with my ex for some time, and most of our communication isn’t productive (to express things politely!). So when I arrived in Buenos Aires for a month, and the first message I received from her fell squarely into that category, I told her that I would be blocking her communication for the duration of my stay, and then did exactly that.

Starting with an empty time basket, there’s no way in the world I would choose to fill any of it with communications with my ex. The shared flat means that there will be some wholly necessary practical communication, but I realised there wasn’t going to be anything so urgent it couldn’t wait until my return.

This does require a certain amount of mental toughness. I’m a very loyal person, so find it hard to disengage and simply choose not to care about someone I once loved. But there are times when it is clearly the right thing to do, and this is one of them.

So I’ve expanded my minimalist home project, to cover space, time, and the relationship between the two.

Photo: Constanze Kahl/Unsplash

One thought on “Being minimalist in time as well as space”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s